Gin Pole Method for Stepping Mast
(See explanatory text below)
(Click on a thumbnail for a larger image)
Fig.1 Fig.2 Fig.3 Fig.4 Fig.5 Fig.6
Fig.7 Fig.8 Fig.9 Fig.10 Fig.11
How to step the mast safely, even when single-handed
First, you set up a gin pole (fig.1), which is a 16' long 2x4 (1.5" x 3.5"), ripped down to about 1.5" x 2". It goes in front of the mast hole, inside the splash rail to hold the butt in position (fig.4) and is guyed by 3 lines, one to the bow eye (fig.2), and the other two to the jib sheet hooks and cleats (fig.3). It is adjusted to approximately match the rake of the mast and tightened down. The guys should be non-stretch line (not nylon, I've discovered) - old spinnaker sheets work well.
Near the top of the gin pole is a block (I used a thru-deck block from a busted boom) and near the bottom is a cleat. The critical dimension is that the block must be higher than the distance from the butt of the mast to the lower shrouds by at least a foot (two is better), so the butt will clear the deck when hoisted. The cleat enables you to make fast at any time.
I have recently added an extra pair of blocks (fig.5) to add some mechanical advantage to enable me to more easily hold the line with one hand while swinging the butt of the mast with the other.
Set the mast across the boat aft of the gin pole guys, tie a bowline around the mast below the lower shrouds and slide it up to the shrouds (fig.6). It should be just loose enough to slide down the mast when you're finished. Now you simply hoist the mast (fig.7-fig.8) up to the block which should get the butt of the mast just above the deck, then swing the mast over the hole (fig.9) and gently lower away (fig.10). Make fast on the cleat to support the mast (fig.11) until you connect at least the fore stay.
The gin pole is quick and easy to set up and take down and makes it possible to raise and lower the mast with complete safety single-handed. It eliminates the "caber-toss" aspect of balancing the mast over the boat with all the inherent risk to people, mast, boat (yours and others), and even the roofs of nearby cars. And it takes up very little storage space, even fitting inside the cockpit while trailering.This page last updated on 12-03-08